The lawsuit claims “years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards” from the electric car maker are to blame for fires occurring between 2012 and 2018. As a result, Walmart is asking Tesla to remove solar panels from all of its stores and pay damages related to the fires.
The court documents claim the fires at each store originated in the Tesla solar panels, pointing to loose and exposed wiring and “numerous hotspots” on panels as potential causes. One fire reportedly occurred five months after the system was de-energized in June 2018.
“To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust,” the lawsuit states. “To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final ‘root cause’ analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires.”
The suit indicates Walmart leased or licensed roof space at more than 240 of its locations for Tesla’s solar systems. Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion, though prior to this, SolarCity made deals with Walmart for solar projects.
Tesla has been struggling with its solar Hutto TX Roofing business since the acquisition of SolarCity. In July, Tesla reported it installed only 29 megawatts in the second quarter. It also ended a distribution deal with Home Depot.
The lawsuit comes a mere two days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced his Hutto TX Roofing Company is offering a rental program that installs solar panels on homes without a long-term contract. Instead, the Hutto TX Roofing Company would charge a monthly fee starting as low as $50. There are no upfront installation costs, though Tesla would charge $1,500 to have the panels removed if the homeowner no longer wants them.
As of publication, Tesla has not commented on the lawsuit.